Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star

on September 05, 2003 by Christine James
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In another variant--if that's not overstating the modulation--of his smirky wise-ass persona, David Spade portrays "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star's" titular has-been who, despite the intervening decades, still clings to his bygone identity as a beloved TV tyke. Once the precocious star of a wacky '70s sitcom, Dickie's now parking cars to pay the rent while enduring existence as a human punchline. He's not alone, at least: Comrades like Leif Garrett, Corey Feldman, "The Partridge Family's" Danny Bonaduce, "The Brady Bunch's" Barry Williams and Dustin "Screech" Diamond of "Saved by the Bell" convene regularly to commiserate over poker, placing bids of collectible memorabilia while drinking out of antediluvian promotional cups bearing their pre-teen images.

When the role of a lifetime comes within Dickie's reach, he goes to extreme measures to prove that he can portray the lead, described as a "normal guy" (though a subsequent plot synopsis evokes more of a Charles Foster Kane type who eventually has a romantic and spiritual epiphany, but anyway...). Dickie concludes, in a plot-facilitating kind of way, that in order to learn how to be "normal," he must experience the childhood he never had, and hires a family to pretend he's their son/sibling. It's homestead values versus Hollywood attitude, but Dickie eventually learns how to be a human being while teaching his surrogate clan his own unique talents, including showboating and deflecting insults.

The filmmakers coast on the fish-out-of-water premise, offering a decent number of clever lines and approaching genuine warmth but relying too heavily upon on-the-nose cameos and easy gags. The transformations and comeuppances are enjoyable but not as creative or satisfying as they could be. Starring David Spade, Mary McCormack, Jon Lovitz and Rob Reiner. Directed by Sam Weisman. Written by Fred Wolf & David Spade. Produced by Adam Sandler & Jack Giarraputo. A Paramount release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, language and drug references. Running time: 97 min.

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